County approves $2,000 to boost cultural, heritage tourism

Tom Ross

— A decade-long effort to raise the profile of cultural and heritage tourism in Northwest Colorado may finally be emerging from adolescence into young adulthood.

The Routt County commissioners agreed Tuesday to fund $2,000 of a $5,000 request from Northwest Colorado Cultural Heritage Tourism project coordinator Nancy Kramer. The organization is working with 17 communities in five neighboring counties to enrich the experience of the growing number of travelers who seek out historical and cultural sites during a ramble through the West.

The commissioners’ voted 2-1 to extend money to the Heritage Tourism Project with Commissioner Cari Hermacinski, a self-professed fan of the program, casting the dissenting vote. She objected to extending the funds outside the annual budget process in the absence of an emergency.

“I’m not going to be able to support the motion,” Hermacinski said. “I don’t see a compelling reason, like a time-sensitive project, to support the motion. I don’t see it as a detriment to your organization by making you wait until the budget process, like any other organization. I love what you are doing. I really respect the work of your organization.”

Kramer said the organization, which formed in 2005, is entering a new era as it nears finalizing its not-for-profit status at the same time it enjoys new recognition and a grant from the Colorado Tourism Office. There is also the prospect of a multi-year grant from the State Historical Fund on the horizon. The Heritage Tourism Project recently received $6,000 in support from Garfield County, she added, and those funds will be used to try to leverage additional grants.

The Heritage Tourism Project is seeking to be the marketing/promotional entity for historical museums, natural history events and organizations, historic buildings and in some cases even archaeological sites by making it more convenient for visitors to put together itineraries for day trips. The effort spans Jackson, Routt, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Garfield counties.

“This is about moving forward now and interpreting and promoting the assets that we have,” Kramer told the commissioners. She added that hiring an interpretive planner is one of the group’s goals for 2015. However, with an attractive website and professionally designed rack cards for each community in hand, there are no major projects ahead of the Heritage Tourism Project save for installation of “gateway” informational signs in Garfield County. Already there are four Gateway signs in place in Routt County, including one in front of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association.

Kramer said Heritage Tourism in the five-county region has benefited greatly from having its own presence on the official web page of Colorado tourism,

Commissioners Doug Monger and Tim Corrigan expressed their reservations about extending funds to heritage tourism outside of the typical budget cycle. Monger said he would like to see the private sector businesses that would benefit most from cultural and heritage tourism supporting the organization.

“Why didn’t you come in during budget time? Why didn’t we see any of this before November?” Monger asked.

Kramer replied that she didn’t feel it was appropriate until their organization as a nonprofit was finalized.

County Manager Tom Sullivan advised Kramer that notices to groups and agencies intending to make 2016 budget requests would go out sometime in June.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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